[%] There’s a reason he’s down there

I was reading Doug Wilson’s blog this week, and on the one hand, I find his on-going battle with his local intoleristas instructive and (look: we all hate this part of ourselves, but it’s there – which is the reason Reality TV shows flourish) entertaining. I do find myself praying for Christ Church in Moscow, ID, as a result of those entries.

I also find myself praying for them because of other entries, too, but for a different reason. If you check out this link, you’ll find a post in which Pastor Wilson finds himself agreeing with Phil Johnson regarding J. Gresham Machen and the dividing line that exists between Christianity and Liberalism. However, because Pastor Wilson is a very skilled writer, he also adds this:
I would be interested to know how many of Phil's readers, who were able to say amen to that quote from Christianity and Liberalism, would be able to say amen to this one as well.

"Yet how great is the common heritage which unites the Roman Catholic Church, with its maintenance of the authority of Holy Scripture and with its acceptance of the great early creeds, to devout Protestants today! . . . The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion; but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all" (Christianity and Liberalism, p. 52).

Common heritage? Was Machen wobbley?
You can actually find the complete text of Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism here, (all my quotes from Machen will come from there, so forgive my lack of page citations) and the quote Pastor Wilson cites is found at the end of Chapter 1. Here is the paragraph that the quote is taken from:
Far more serious still is the division between the Church of Rome and evangelical Protestantism in all its forms. Yet how great is the common heritage which unites the Roman Catholic Church, with its maintenance of the authority of Holy Scripture and with its acceptance of the great early creeds, to devout Protestants today! We would not indeed obscure the difference which divides us from Rome. The gulf is indeed profound. But profound as it is, it seems almost trifling compared to the abyss which stands between us and many ministers of our own Church. The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion; but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all. {Emphasis Added}
The greater context of that statement is this thesis:
In maintaining the doctrinal basis of Christianity, we are particularly anxious not to be misunderstood. There are certain things that we do not mean.

In the first place, we do not mean that if doctrine is sound it makes no difference about life. On the contrary, it makes all the difference in the world. …

In the second place, we do not mean, in insisting upon the doctrinal basis of Christianity, that all points of doctrine are equally important. It is perfectly possible for Christian fellowship to be maintained despite differences of opinion.
Thus Machen’s point is that we have far more in common with the “Church of Rome" than we do with “liberals" inside our own denominations – his crux being that even Rome does not have the audacity to deny the earliest creeds.

So was Machen “wobbley"? In his chapter in this same book, Machen says this about “the Church":
… the Church of today has been unfaithful to her Lord by admitting great companies of non-Christian persons, not only into her membership, but into her teaching agencies. It is indeed inevitable that some persons who are not truly Christian shall find their way into the visible Church; fallible men cannot discern the heart, and many a profession of faith which seems to be genuine may really be false. But it is not this kind of error to which we now refer. What is now meant is not the admission of individuals whose confessions of faith may not be sincere, but the admission of great companies of persons who have never made any really adequate confession of faith at all and whose entire attitude toward the gospel is the very reverse of the Christian attitude. Such persons, moreover, have been admitted not merely to the membership, but to the ministry of the Church, and to an increasing extent have been allowed to dominate its councils and determine its teaching. The greatest menace to the Christian Church today comes not from the enemies outside, but from the enemies within; it comes from the presence within the Church of a type of faith and practice that is anti-Christian to the core.

… the narrow man is the man who rejects the other man's convictions without first endeavoring to understand them, the man who makes no effort to look at things from the other man's point of view. For example, it is not narrow to reject the Roman Catholic doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church. It is not narrow to try to convince Roman Catholics that that doctrine is wrong. But it would be very narrow to say to a Roman Catholic: "You may go on holding your doctrine about the Church and I shall hold mine, but let us unite in our Christian work, since despite such trifling differences we are agreed about the matters that concern the welfare of the soul." For of course such an utterance would simply beg the question; the Roman Catholic could not possibly both hold his doctrine of the Church and at the same time reject it, as would be required by the program of Church unity just suggested. A Protestant who would speak in that way would be narrow, because quite independent of the question whether he or the Roman Catholic is right about the Church he would show plainly that he had not made the slightest effort to understand the Roman Catholic point of view. {Emph added}
So I don’t think Machen went “wobbley", nor that he was underscoring a point necessary for (as Wilson’s heading under “Auburn Avenue Stuff") a broader, inclusive view of all Roman Catholics as unquestionably inside the church.


Hobster said...

ahhh, behold the power of the ellipsis....

Thanks for this, man!

c.t. said...

The Auburn Avenue|Federal Vision|Reformed Catholic types have repeatedly demonstrated this inclination and ability to surgically clip quotes from stalwarts of the past so as to make them look wobbly, lukewarm, and anemic (or just plain wrong, like A.A. and F.V. and rC types)...

I once did some satire on Tim Enloe's doing of just this: here was a quote he clipped from Calvin's Institutes -

"...I follow. The Pope..."

I personally find Doug Wilson to be a fake who talks out of two or more sides of his mouth on most occasions. I said this on the NTRMin forum and was banned ("Who are you to be critical of a pastor of God's church!!")

That Wilson throws a bone to the truth every now and then doesn't impress me. (If Wilson is just legitimately confused, fine, but he should teach less.)

FX Turk said...


(1) I would also caution you about how you handle criticizing a pastor in God's church. Just because some of what Pastor Wilson says is in cahoots with a view of the NT and the Gospel which -- though it may be wrong -- offers a broader definition of "CHristian" than you and I may be comfortable with, that doesn't make him worthy of careless scorn. I think I demonstrated what "having a care" is in this post -- and a large part of it is addressing the mistakes and not the man.

(2) I don't have a policy about banning commentators or editing comments, and I'm not about to start one (I don't have that kind of time). However, if you're going to visit, I ask you to behave like a guest. All that means is that if you have a lengthy response, (I have posted some L*E*N*G*T*H*Y comments in my time in the blogosphere) stick to topic. If you have a response that takes lengthy to new places, start your own blog. I started my blog becuase I had too much to say and it was all over the place. If you want to blog, it's free and easy. Go blog: nobody's going to think less of you if you do.

(3) Commenting here opens you up to all kinds of disrepute. If you think you take flack now, wait 'til it gets out that you read (and comment) on my blog. People treat disgraced ministers better than they treat the readers of this blog, so don't say I didn't warn you.

c.t. said...

But we're all going to die soon enough so get the truth, hold to it, develop in it, and that means engage, absorb, and make efforts to understand the Word of God to ever deeper and further degree...

And reduce to practice. And evangelize as best you can and in whatever ways you are able...

Once you enter the Kingdom of God there will be innumerable forces that will attempt to drag you back into babel and darkness. Of course they can't pull God's elect down to where they are, but they will attempt to fool even God's elect. It's a battle to the end.

c.t. said...

You're lukewarm.

FX Turk said...

Ah. Namecalling. Always the most enjoyable of argumentation styles.

It's too bad that you place your own understanding of the truth above some of the things that Scripture says directly.

"What might that be?" you ask.

Here are three that come to mind just now, but there might be more.
1Tim 5:17Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
18For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
19Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
21I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.
1Pet 3: 8Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
9Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
10For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
11Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
12For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
13And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
14But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
16Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
17For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
1Pet 5:5Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
7Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour
There's also a little thing I like to call "the apologetic gut check": unless you are personally receiving messages from a burning bush, a pillar of fire or smoke, or from someone you have seen crucified and now He's standing next to you explaining the Scriptures, you have an obligation to check your opinions of yourself against the opinions others have of you -- especially among those who are part of the church.

Chicky-check yourself before you wreck yourself, Xeno.

c.t. said...

He's not my elder. I wouldn't be so foolish to be in his church.

In fact, in these end times the devil controls the visible churches. My church is the Church of which Christ is King. It becomes visible whenever two or more believers come together.

Don't suffer fools.

FX Turk said...

Thanks for the reminder. "Don't suffer fools" is the best thing you've said in 2 weeks, and I'll remember it.

c.t. said...

OK, centuriOn.

Scott McClare said...

I had trouble accessing the copy of Christianity and Liberalism you linked to.

If anyone else is similarly afflicted, there are multiple copies on the Net. Like this one, for instance.

FX Turk said...

Ransom: I tested the link with multiple browsers and OS's, and it worked for me.

However, thanks for the alt link to this excellent standard.